The Tables Were Turned

I once watched a TV show where dancers did a jazz dance. It mimicked office executives cutting a deal. The dramatic routine highlighted dancers using an actual table as a prop to jump over, dance on, and shake hands under. I happened to record it, and it’s one of my favorites. I even labeled the VHS, “Do Not Record Over!”

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If you have not taken time to really read the book of Esther, do so. Esther highlights the way God works in unseen ways, while the rest of humanity is quite oblivious to what He is doing because of love. Here is the verse we will ponder together: Esther 9:1b says, “…On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.” Meaning, the Jewish race had an enemy that had it in for them. The death warrant read, “destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews” (Esther 3:13). Instead, in 484 BC, the Jews in Persia survived because God intervened.

Interesting. Even all those years ago, the cliché that the “tables were turned” was still effective speech. For me it makes the Bible that much more intimate and understandable. I know how tables can be turned! Jesus turned the tables for us. His opponent Satan had it in for us. The death warrant read, “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Instead, God intervenes because of love.

Let’s enter the room at the Last Supper. “When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve…. While they were eating, Jesus took break, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:20, 26-28).”

Lots of traditions happen around tables. The most obvious is thanksgiving. A church tradition mirrors what we read. It’s called communion. It is important to gather around this table with other believers, because it reminds us that Jesus turned the table for us. Without Jesus dying on the cross days later, Satan could fulfill his wishes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Instead, God intervened and turned the table for me, for you, for humanity.

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Table turning happens in other places in Scripture. Only these tables were not only turned, they were overturned. John 2:15 says, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” Do you notice in this scene how Jesus overturned “their tables”? This passage does not tell us about the tables that did not flip, as Beth Moore pointed out in her study, Esther. I think perhaps some tables stood after Jesus walked away; at least His altar.

God will keep things that bring Him glory in our lives. Unnecessary tables felt Jesus’ hand overturn them. He took what people found so necessary and flipped it over. Doesn’t He do the same with us? In Esther, we see that God loved His people enough to turn the tables to avoid their utter destruction. In Matthew, God loves us enough to turn the tables to avoid our utter destruction. In John, Jesus did the table flipping quite unexpectedly, again to avoid utter destruction of true worship and true love.

Some scholars call the table turning “reversal of destiny.” It’s a pivot, a move to start heading the opposite direction. It is when the dancer takes a step and finds themselves facing a different direction. Even if it is on a VHS tape marked, “Do Not Record Over!” Keep your eyes out for tables. And your hearts open to turning.

(First published at http://christianonlinemagazine.com, a site that no longer exists.)

Photo by Diego Rosa on Unsplash

© 2011, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

The Cup of Salvation

(This post originated on the Christian Online Magazine in June of 2011, which is no longer available.)

Be prepared, this article is not for those with sippy-cups. We will drink from God’s fire hose. God’s use of symbolism in His Word helps to make complex ideas simple. Nevertheless, this idea of cups can present challenges. Let’s just say the cup is neither half-full nor half-empty. Cups can be full and empty at the same time. We will look at the cup as a symbol for our salvation and praises, and also as our contentment.

Psalms 116:12-13 NIV says, “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.” Offer God an empty cup to fill. Coming empty to God will allow Him to fill you up without yesterday’s leftovers. Clean cups are empty cups. It’s Oliver Twist asking, “Please sir, can I have some more?” Because once you experience God’s goodness in salvation, you do want more. Do not have an empty cup for long.

The verse reads, “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?” This implies that the author already had his fill of blessings. He already praised God for the good things in his life. So how do we go to God empty when our cup is already full of blessings and praises? It is continuous. First we experience God’s blessing, then we empty ourselves out in response. We come to God empty again, and “call on the name of the LORD” to get filled up. I like the New English Translation (NET) Bible’s rendition of the same verses, “How can I repay the Lord for all His acts of kindness to me? I will celebrate my deliverance, and call on the name of the Lord.”

It does not say, “How can I repay the Lord? I will get disciplined.” All discipline will fall away without desire to back it up. If you truly recognize what God did for you through Jesus’ death and resurrection, it won’t be hard to lift up your life to him. Coming to him will be a celebration.

Now let’s hold the cup in our other hand and look at it from a different perspective. Psalm 16:5 says, “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” God assigns our cups. Is your cup too big for God to fill? Are you unsatisfied? Are you holding a sippy cup, wondering when you can get a bigger “grown-up” cup? Are you asking for more than your cup can hold? These are valid questions when you present your cup to God through prayer. He gave us the cup. He gave us life.  He decides what goes in the cup that wasn’t ours to begin with;  the cup given to you is a gift.

God tells us to offer our lives or our circumstances and He will fill us back up. “You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words” (Psalm 119:57). God is enough for me. Ever feel drained because you are overwhelmed? Let it go. When you feel that your portion in life is not enough, obey God’s words, and lift up the cup of salvation. He saved you, He can take care of it for you, and all you have to do is lift it up. By letting it go, you will have obeyed. You can’t offer something by grasping it so tightly that someone has to pry it from your fingers. You can’t be thinking about it, controlling it, and offering it at the same time.

I once experienced trying to control what my cup looked like. I tried to impress everyone I came in contact with. I wanted my plastic cup to look like a hand-painted teacup. A friend asked me if I was lifting up my cup of salvation. Was I so focused on controlling everyone’s thoughts about me that I forgot to celebrate Jesus? My faithful God restored my life when I started to praise Him—and He gave me a new cup! So lift your cups. Here’s a toast to God, praise and honor belong to Him alone!

© 2020, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.